We Need an Anti-Imperialist Caucus in Congress
Though few American students or media consumers ever hear the U.S. described as an Empire, there is no doubt that the U.S. is an imperial power. Through a system of massive military spending, hundreds of military bases all over the world, massive influence over countless foreign governments, and swift economic and military consequences for those who defy it, the United States has created one of the most powerful empires that has ever existed.
For much of the Cold War and then again with the endless War on Terror, there has been a bipartisan foreign policy consensus in which U.S. imperialism is sanctioned regardless of who is the in the White House. In recent decades this has included strong support for the invasion of Iraq & Afghanistan, the toppling of Libya, and numerous regime change operations (Syria, Honduras, and now Venezuela).
The current situation in Venezuela is one of the clearest examples of U.S. imperialism in years. In fact, the Trump administration is barely trying to hide it. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, always a key target of the U.S. economy. It also has a left-leaning government that is often very vocal in its criticism of U.S. foreign Policy. These are all the indicators for U.S. regime change targets. According to former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, Trump very openly discussed invading Venezuela because of their oil and geographically nearness to the U.S.. Trump advisor John Bolton has openly discussed his desire for U.S. corporations to get access to that oil. He also added that this administration is “not afraid to mention the Monroe Doctrine,” an archaic policy from the 1820s announcing that Latin America is essentially the United States’ backyard and ours to control.
Additionally, the self-proclaimed opposition president in Venezuela, Juan Guaido, is deeply tied to the U.S, had multiple contacts with U.S. officials, and has promised to open the oil to U.S corporations. In 2002, the U.S. was implicated in a failed coup attempt in Venezuela. Years later, President Obama inexplicably named Venezuela a threat to U.S. security and imposed economic sanctions, which Trump has ramped up dramatically. These sanctions have played a large role in created and exacerbating the economic crisis in Venezuela, allowing the opposition to foment unrest and the U.S. to justify further action. Trump has made it clear that a military option is “on the table.”
While that consensus has remained fairly strong, there are some promising signs that a strong anti-war sentiment is developing among the American people and it is beginning to be reflected in political discourse in Washington D.C.. Leadership in both parties have largely backed this effort at regime change. Many prominent Democrats disgustingly stood up and applauded Trump as he bragged about this during his State of the Union address. However, several prominent Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress have begun to speak out against this. On the campaign trail and via Twitter, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard have made public statements denouncing regime change in Venezuela and elsewhere. On March 7th, a group of 15 members of Congress penned a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo, denouncing several key elements in the regime change process, including:
- The absurd claim that Venezuela is a threat to U.S. security
- The use of sanctions to economically punish Venezuela
- The unilateral way in which the U.S. has approached the situation &
- The threat of military action
This list is important because it goes beyond a criticism of the potential use of military actions. Without naming imperialism, they are critiquing the imperial methods used by the the U.S in this whole process. Sadly, only 15 out of the over 200 Democratic members of Congress signed on to this letter. For they most part, they came from the new, progressive wing of the part, such as, Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio Cortes, Tulsi Gabbard, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and more.
Hopefully this will lead to the opening of a more robust debate on American foreign policy rather than the previous discussions which tend to focus on actions toward specific countries without putting them in the larger context of empire. The last time the U.S. had a debate of that nature was over 100 years ago when the U.S. won the Spanish-American War and conquered Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. This time period saw the formation of the Anti-Imperialist League, headed by major American figure likes Mark Twain. There was a heated debate in Congress over whether or not the U.S. could be both a Republic and an Empire. In the end, the Imperialists won by a single vote in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. went on to brutally repress a independence movement in the Philippines, install puppets in Cuba, and colonize Puerto Rico while applying second class citizenship to the islands inhabitants. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were killed in the process. In Cuba, the majority of the population suffered as wealthy white elites on the Island collaborated with American corporations to rule the ‘independent’ country, eventually leading to a Communist revolution. To this day, the people of Puerto Rico remain second class citizens in the American Empire.
Hopefully, these brave anti-imperialist voices will lead to the creation of a new anti-imperialist movement in America. Towards that end, I call on these 15 members of Congress to create an Anti-Imperialist Caucus in the House of Representatives. America needs an established organization inside the halls of power to speak out against our constant efforts to impose hegemony on Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.